Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Society Dictating Moral Order Online Is A Vigilante Society Of Lawlessness

By David Simms, Senior Contributor
The Global Institute for Cyber Safety and Standards

There is a perspective floating around whereby cyber-bullying on social media is viewed as the result of society’s desire to create moral order online. In certain parts of the world shaming others for their mistakes by identifying what is morally right or wrong gives the ability for internet users to shape social codes and force conformity. A graduate student in Yogyakarta Indonesia faced the wrath of thousands of social media users after tweeting negative angry statements about petrol station staff in the city. People rallied together online demanding the student be banished from the province for her demeaning comments. As a result, police arrested her on defamation charges under the controversial Electronic Information and Transactions (ITE) law established in that country.  Another case involved a commuting female worker complaining online about how pregnant women always get a seat wherever they board. In just a matter of hours, her post went viral and she faced a chorus of condemnation.

Countries such as Indonesia where ethnic and religious sentiments are very present in the social fabric of society, tend to see much more group mob-like behaviour when it comes to defending cultural or religious practices.  This drives people to utilise social media as a tool to criticise others they see as breaching the moral code. But is it right?

Contrastingly, a recent study by Pew Research Centre revealed that social media actually works to silence public debate in the United States. The study found Americans tend to not voice their opinions in social media, especially when they feel that their opinion is different from popular views.

Regardless of how you look at the issue, using the online platform to harass others into conformity or bash them because they disagree with prevailing views is wrong. This is not to say people should voice scathing negative opinions without considering the impacts of their statements on others. The bottom line is we should all be kinder and more conscientious when it comes to any online interaction. We must always consider how our comments will be taken but we must also restrain from taking up torches to silence others we disagree with.

A society dictating moral order online is a vigilante society of lawlessness and of that we should be very aware and concerned.